Opting Out?: Why Women Really Quit Careers and Head Home

Front Cover
University of California Press, Jun 2, 2008 - Family & Relationships - 295 pages
"With insight and compassion, Pamela Stone shows convincingly that, far from representing a return to tradition, the decision of some women to relinquish high-powered careers is a reluctant and conflict-ridden response to the growing mismatch between privatized families and time-demanding jobs. By charting the institutional obstacles and cultural pressures that continue to leave even the most advantaged women facing impossible options, Opting Out? gets beneath the hype and offers the real story behind the misleading headlines. This groundbreaking study is required reading for anyone who cares about the fate of families, work, and gender equality in contemporary America."—Kathleen Gerson, author of Hard Choices: How Women Decide About Work, Career, and Motherhood

"Pamela Stone's Opting Out? is a creative and beautifully written addition to the burgeoning scholarly and popular literature on work and family. Stone gives voice to those elite career women—the 'best and the brightest'—who have returned home to raise their kids. She creatively unpacks these women's 'choices,' describing both the 'pulls' of family life but also the labor market 'pushes.' Opting Out? is a fully nuanced portrait of women (and their husbands) struggling to make important life decisions in a culture that often provides only simplistic zero-sum alternatives: mom or worker, even though most women are already working moms. Women want alternative visions of working motherhood, yet are often stymied by outmoded workplace models (and firms and managers) insensitive to the concerns of working families. Stone's work challenges our organizational leaders and policy makers to do better, for women, but also more generally for working families, workplace organizations, and society as a whole."—Patricia A. Roos, Rutgers University

"Pamela Stone has listened to women with high powered careers now at home with their kids as no one else has. Bringing an open mind and equal parts sympathy and skepticism, coupled with years of training as a social scientist, Stone analyzes the opt out decision and comes to surprising conclusions. Delving beneath the superficial, media-friendly explanations, she finds the real movers in the drama: rising norms of intensive mothering, fathers ensconced in even more demanding and better-paying jobs, and inflexible workplaces that refuse to accommodate reduced hours. Brilliantly written and argued, this book reveals what's really going on in women's minds and corporate America today, and what we can do to make equal opportunity at home and on the job reality rather than rhetoric."—Heidi Hartmann, Institute for Women's Policy Research

"A fascinating, fine-grained look at the real reasons why many professional women with children leave the workplace. Stone's research and her well-written account make it clear that educated mothers aren't opting out; they are being shut out by inflexible employers. Must reading for anyone interested in understanding the 'reality of constraint' behind the 'rhetoric of choice.'"—Ann Crittenden, author of The Price of Motherhood

"Based on a study, but told through the eloquent stories of women who are at-home mothers, this seminal book goes beyond the myths, misconceptions, and even what is usually said, to reveal very important and compelling truths. Everyone who cares about work and family life in the United States today needs to read this book."—Ellen Galinsky, President, Families and Work Institute, and author of Ask the Children

"A brilliant analysis. With exquisite sensitivity, Stone unpacks the painful process by which most women who 'opt out' feel pushed out by workplace pressures from their own-and their husbands'-all-or-nothing careers. This book offers sophisticated sociology at its accessible best, in the tradition of Arlie Hochschild's pathbreaking work."—Joan Williams, author of Unbending Gender

"'Ladies, start your engines.' This exhortation concludes the illuminating analysis of vibrant, fully realized stories Pamela Stone heard in talking to women who left professional work for full-time home life. Thank you, Pamela Stone, for producing new knowledge that both individuals and business policy-makers will find essential in creating the conditions that will enable business professionals to meet this profound social and economic challenge."—Stewart Friedman, Director, Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, University of Pennsylvania

What people are saying - Write a review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Calavari - LibraryThing

Opting Out I was intrigued with the premise of this work right from the beginning. Well put together and deeply researched, this book goes beyond the simple explanations to get down to the how and why ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - kristenn - LibraryThing

I was predisposed to agree with the author and that didn't change. What did surprise me was how little sympathy I felt for the women in the case studies. They recognized the barriers thrown up by ... Read full review


1 The Dream Team
2 Family Matters
3 Home Alone
4 Gilded Cages
5 The Choice Gap
6 HalfFull HalfEmpty
7 Mothers of ReInvention
The Drift to Domesticity
Getting There
Appendix Study Methodology

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2008)

Pamela Stone is Professor of Sociology at Hunter College and The Graduate Center, City University of New York.

Bibliographic information